Welcome to Cosentino Watch, where we recap the moves of San Francisco chef Chris Cosentino as he competes in Top Chef Masters. Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Episode 4 is called "Grand Canyon Cookout," and we've seen from the previews that the Masters will be making something from great heights. Before that Elimination Challenge, however, the contestants are indoors for the Quickfire Challenge. Chefs have eight minutes to create a lovely salad from a salad bar with 52 common ingredients, to be judged by Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider, otherwise known as kitschy Southern singing sensations the B-52's.
"I love produce," says Cosentino. "When you look at my food costs [at Incanto], I spend more on produce than I do on anything else."
The B-52's are rather enthusiastic about most of the salads, but they find Cosentino's romaine, egg, and soft herb salad "underdressed and a little bland," as Pierson says.
"This is bullshit," Cosentino reacts in a later interview. "If I underdressed that salad, I'd be doing the same thing I chastise my staff for in the restaurant. I couldn't do it."
"And are we overdressed?" Pierson asks host Curtis Stone.
"Yes, you are," Cosentino replies sarcastically from the safe confines of another room, where they're watching the B-52's judge them on a television screen.
Later, the band meets the chefs and Art Smith fawns over them. "I love 'Rock Lobster' and 'Love Shack,' 'cause those songs came out when I came out!"
"That was a good one," sneers Schneider, and we know why: "Rock Lobster" came out in 1978, while "Love Shack" dropped in 1989.
Lorena Garcia wins for a grilled cauliflower salad and earns immunity for the episode. Next, it's time to learn the details of the Elimination Challenge. Stone brings in Louise Benson, the chairwoman of the Hualapai Tribal Council, and explains the chefs will travel by helicopter to cook a meal on the rim of the Grand Canyon using ingredients native to the Hualapai tribe. Cosentino, who's never been in a helicopter or to the Grand Canyon, is stoked.
They must get into teams of two, so Cosentino pairs up once again with his former boss Patricia Yeo. They blindly draw a vegetable (acorn squash) and a protein (rabbit) to make their dish. And then it's up, up, and away. Cosentino is laughing, smiling, and looking like he's having the most fun he's had so far in the game.
They reach their perch, where there are cooking stations waiting under canopies. Rain starts to quickly interfere with the fire and the food, but Cosentino has smartly wheeled his grill somewhat out of harms way. While other teams seem to have a bit of difficulty just gelling together, Cosentino and Yeo are quietly efficient.
"Whatever it takes, Chris is gonna do it better than all of us," Smith says in an interview. "He's one aggressive kid."
Cosentino and Yeo present their final dish to the judges and the Hualapai Tribal Council, rabbit loin "in its bits," which utilizes all the parts of the animal alongside acorn squash that's been roasted in a redberry and piñon agrodulce. One of the leaders deems it "damned tasty" while another reminisces that it's like her mom used to make.
Cosentino and Yeo are called to the Judges' Table alongside the team of Takashi Yagihashi and Thierry Rautureau; they're collectively told they made the best two dishes.
"My neighbor made a little moan when it came out and loved that dish," says judge and former food critic Ruth Reichl of the rabbit loin. "The agrodulce was a really brilliant touch."
In the end, though, Yagahashi and Rautureau are victorious. The remaining contestants are called in and Clark Frasier (whose partner Mark Gaier went home last week) must pack his knives and go.
Once again, Cosentino shines and ends an episode toward the top of the field, but the preview for next week shows that his fellow competitors might be losing their patience with him.